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Basalt golf finishes second at regional, Aspen third as all four players qualify

The 3A state tournament is scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in Denver

The Basalt High School boys golf team poses with the runner-up trophy after taking second at the regional tournament on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. Andy Bockelman/Special to The Aspen Times

The Roaring Fork Valley will be well represented at the state high school golf tournament in two weeks after both Basalt and Aspen qualified through all four players during Tuesday’s Class 3A regional tournament at Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch.

The host Longhorns — whose roster features players from Basalt, Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs high schools — grabbed the second and final team qualifying spot by shooting a collective 226 (top three players score) to finish only a stroke behind Region 4 champion Vail Mountain (225).

BHS had three players finish in the top four, with sophomore Jackson Stewart and junior Garrett Exelbert each shooting 75 to tie for second place. BHS junior Jase Joslin was fourth with 76, and junior Alec Claassen tied for 12th with 79.

Vail Mountain senior Felix Gruner won the tournament by shooting 2-under 70, the only player to finish under par for the round.

Finishing third among teams was Aspen at 233, well clear of fourth-placed Salida (251). While only the top two teams earned the automatic team qualifier, meaning all four players will compete at state, AHS still had all four of its regional golfers qualify through individually by finishing among the top 13 players not on one of the two team qualifiers.

Seniors Sky Sosna and Carson Miller paved the way, each shooting 77 to tie for fifth place. Sophomore Ryan Rigney shot 79 to tie for 12th and senior Peter DeWetter shot 82 to tie for 16th place.

Aspen’s Sky Sosna lines up his putt on the eighth hole during Tuesday’s regional round. Andy Bockelman/Special to The Aspen Times

The Skiers had long dominated regional play — they entered Tuesday’s tournament having won the regional title 12 of the past 13 seasons, the lone defeat during that stretch coming in 2019 when they hosted at Aspen Golf Club (they finished runner-up to Montezuma-Cortez).

Still, Aspen heads to the state tournament as the reigning 3A state champions. Sosna is the only returning member of that team, which entered state as somewhat of an underdog despite having won its first state championship as recently as 2018.

Coal Ridge High School did not qualify any individuals for the 3A state tournament. Finishers for the Titans were Jakson Slade in 32nd place, Cooper Robinson in 35th, Wyatt Murray in 42nd and LJ Herrera in 44th.

Rifle High School golfers competed at the 4A Region 4 tournament at Eagle Ranch Golf Course in Montrose on Tuesday. Individual and team results were not immediately available from school officials.

This year’s 3A state tournament is scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4 at Pinehurst Country Club in Denver.

Tin Caps win TRLL Minors title

The local Three Rivers Little League Minors team, the Tin Caps, recently won the league championship. The league consists of teams from Aspen to Eagle. The team is made up of 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds. The team is coached by, back row from left, Tom Will, Sam Brager and Ryan Ivy.| Courtesy photo
LittleLeague-gpi-061322

Grizzlies storm Vegas to win Memorial Day Classic

Western Slope All-Conference baseball stars square off in 3A/4A game

The top high school baseball players in the Western Slope League 3A and 4A ranks got a chance to play one more game this season in an all-star matchup Wednesday at Rifle’s Deerfield Park.

The 4A vs. 3A game featured the recently selected All-Conference players from Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Palisade, Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain, Summit and Steamboat Springs in 4A, and for 3A from Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge, Basalt, Aspen, North Fork, Gunnison, Moffat County and Delta.

The 3A team bested its upper-classification counterparts, 9-2.

Among the 4A All-Conference selections, as determined by league coaches, Palisade senior Ryder Mancusco was named Player of the Year, and Mancusco and Rifle junior Austin Bowlan shared Pitcher of the Year honors.

Rifle High School pitcher Austin Bowlan turns to force the runner back to first base during a game earlier this season against Glenwood Springs in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Bowlan went 9-1 on the season, with 12 appearances, 68 strikeouts and an earned run average (ERA) of 0.92, according to statistics posted to Maxpreps Colorado. He also had a batting average of .349 with 31 runs batted in (RBI) and three home runs.

Longtime Rifle head baseball coach Troy Phillips and Summit’s Patrick Stehler were picked as co-Coaches of the Year.

Joining Bowlan on the first team from Garfield County high schools were Rifle teammates Logan Gross, Kade Street and Gavin Peterson, and Evan Heyl from Glenwood Springs.

Class 3A first team picks among Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County schools were, from Coal Ridge: infielder Alexis Serna, outfielder Brandon Short and pitcher Ben Simons; from Roaring Fork: utility player David Good; from Basalt: infielder Chaney Morris and outfielder Cooper Crawford; and from Aspen: outfielder Ben Godomsky and pitcher Lucas Lee.

Player of the Year was Gunnison’s Sky Wild, and Coach of the Year was North Fork’s Dakota Coats.

Only the first-team picks played in the All-Conference game on Wednesday.

Honorable mentions went to, for 4A: Easton Phillips, Trey Caldwell, Broc Caldwell and Conner Abbott from Rifle, and Braxton Mims from Glenwood Springs; and for 3A: Logan Harlow from Coal Ridge, Mason Smith from Roaring Fork, and Gage Balderson and Kade Schneider from Basalt.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

3A, 4A All-Conference girls soccer selections made

Western Slope League 3A and 4A girls soccer All-Conference selections have been released, including a co-Player of the Year honors for Glenwood Springs High School’s Ella Johnson.

Johnson, who just graduated and plans to run cross country and track at the U.S. Air Force Academy next year, earned 4A WSL Player of the Year along with Summit High School’s Courtney Vargas. Coach of Year was Eagle Valley’s Jess Platt.

Johnson was the lone All-Conference selection for Glenwood Springs. Honorable mention went to Cate Simpson and Paige Rightmire.

Among the 3A WSL All-Conference selections from Garfield County were, from Coal Ridge: Mikayla Cheney; from Roaring Fork: Inez Passerini and Macey Peery; and from Rifle: Bailey Braun.

Honorable mention went to Coal Ridge’s Mari Stephens and Ashlynn Guccini, Roaring Fork’s Erica Crownhart and Rifle’s Dariana Ortega.

Player of the Year for 3A was Vail Mountain’s Liv Mortiz, and Vail Mountain’s Brian Sweeney was Coach of the Year.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Persson, Woodrow head to state for first time with Aspen High School girls golf

When the season began, Audrey Woodrow wasn’t thinking about qualifying for the state tournament. The Aspen High School freshman was playing competitive golf for the first time ever after picking up the sport in earnest at the beginning of the pandemic, and she had a lot to learn.

Playing at state? No, that wasn’t all too high on her list.

“It’s been really interesting,” Woodrow said of her season on Friday prior to the team’s practice round at Aspen Golf Club. “At the beginning, I was worried that I was going to be the worst, but as the season has progressed, I think I’ve really improved, and I’ve definitely connected with the girls on the team. It’s been a really fun experience.”

Woodrow has been far from “the worst” and put together her best round of the season last week at regionals in Alamosa and will join freshman teammate Lenna Persson at the Class 3A state tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at The Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield.

AHS girls golf coach Shannon Worth never doubted Woodrow’s chances, despite her inexperience.

“I wasn’t worried for a second. Something about Audrey’s mental focus has been there from the very start. She is learning her swing,” Worth said. “She hasn’t been trained the way Lenna has been trained, but this game is so mental, and from the very first tournament that we played, I could see she knows how to focus when she needs to. She knows how to relax when she needs to, which is another huge part of the game.”

While Worth had plenty of confidence in Woodrow at regionals, she had even more in Persson. The standout rookie entered the state qualifier among the favorites to win and did just that, shooting 80 at Cattails Golf Club to win the regional by four strokes over Vail Mountain sophomore Logan Nobrega.

As a regional champion, Persson will have a few extra eyes on her at the state tournament.

“I was coming in ranked No. 1 in the region, but I didn’t necessarily expect to win. I just knew that if I played good I could win,” Persson said of her regional round. “I’m super excited. I would have been bummed if it was just me (at state), because the team aspect of golf that I’ve gotten this year has been so much fun. In previous years I’ve been playing, and it’s just me and my dad. And that’s fun, but being with a group of girls, especially this group of girls, has been a really good experience.”

There is a jovial nature to the Skiers this season, and Woodrow might top the list as a reason why. She shot 101 at regionals to tie for 10th place and easily qualified for state. Woodrow said she was simply happy to be there and has a similar attitude toward this week’s tournament in Denver.

“The girls from the other teams are excited when they get to play with her. I would want to play with her. Lenna wants to play with her. She is a good little leader, a good little light for the future,” Worth said of Woodrow. “I am really happy. It is the start of something. We needed a little bit of a fresh energy. And not even just talent, but the whole team helps each other succeed with their positive attitudes.”

The future is indeed bright for AHS girls golf. Junior Jade Hanson just missed out on qualifying for the state tournament — she was officially listed as a second alternate — and last year’s standout freshman, Brooke O’Sullivan, has been out this spring recovering from a knee injury. O’Sullivan finished 10th at the state tournament last season.

This week it’ll be about Persson and Woodrow getting that same state experience, with the pair hopefully joining O’Sullivan on course together next spring.

“I’m really excited for it. There are some girls that I have played against in tournaments in previous years. … I’ve beaten them before, but I’ve seen some of their scores this season, and they have been shooting around even par, which is a little intimidating,” Persson said of state. “I’m not too worried about it. I’m mostly excited to go and have the experience for the first time.”

Persson admitted she’s felt a little extra pressure since winning the regional championship last week. She’s received a lot more attention, notably of the congratulatory nature, from her friends and teachers, which is all part of the fun.

But pressure is also something both Persson and Woodrow seem to have the ability to toss aside when they need to on the golf course.

“I’m also really nervous, but I think that’s expected,” Woodrow said of competing at state. “Lenna is one of my really close friends outside of golf as well. I think it’s a really good environment. Lenna, even though she is really good, she is just an awesome person to play with, and she is really optimistic and happy all the time. I’ve never had a bad day on this team.”

After a weather-permitting practice round Monday, the two-day state tournament will get underway Tuesday. Both AHS golfers will start from the 10th tee in the first round, with Persson getting on course at 9:30 a.m. alongside Moffat County’s Reagan Hafey and Jefferson Academy’s Samantha Duncan.

Woodrow will play in the following group that tees off at 9:40 a.m. alongside Moffat County’s Taylor Powell and Jefferson Academy’s Freja Hampton.

The groups will be re-sorted for the second round on Wednesday based off first-round scores. AHS won’t be able to compete for a team score as it doesn’t have the minimum of three golfers needed.

“I never doubted that Lenna would not be there by herself, to be honest,” Worth said. “I don’t think it is just a one-person team, as much as I love her and she has the talent. We do have a little team coming up, so it will be fun to have them get this experience, because that’s what is going to help them when we do have a chance to compete as a team.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Rifle baseball falls one game short of state tourney berth

Sophomore Logan Gross hit an extra-inning double. Senior teammate Gavin Peterson then hit a short gapper to get Gross comfortably across to best Evergreen 8-7.

With Saturday games in the Class 4A Region 8 postponed due to spring snow, Monday at Deerfield Park saw Rifle baseball go on a wild roller coaster ride.

After giving up two game-tying runs in the top of the seventh inning to the 31st-ranked Cougars, Peterson’s game-winning hit advanced the Bears to the Region 8 title game and a chance to stamp a state tournament berth.

“I know we made a few mistakes that kind of let them back in the game a couple times,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said of the Evergreen game. “But it was nice to see Logan (Gross), in particular, get that big hit and get to second. Then having that gapper to get the win, that will be something we always remember.”

But closing out a chilly and windy Monday evening, the Bears lost 12-2 to 15th-ranked D’Evelyn. The game prior, the Jaguars beat 18th-ranked Northridge 11-5.

Despite two consecutive home runs blasted in the first inning by Gross and Peterson, Rifle would go through three pitchers and ultimately succumb to the Jaguars’ hot bats.

The Bears’ best shot at giving starting Jaguars pitcher Troy Benko a run for his money came in the third inning.

Leading things off, Bears senior Easton Phillips doubled. Peterson then hit a grounder but got to first base after Benko tried to get Phillips out at third. This trapped Phillips in a 5-4 pickle, but he managed to slide safely back to second base.

With bases loaded later in the inning, however, Rifle junior Connor Abbott sent a grounder to second base for an easy third out.

“That was the inning we could’ve taken advantage of,” Phillips said. “If we just had a couple key hits there, it would have been back and forth all the way to the end.”

The Bears end the 2022 season with 20-5 overall, 9-3 league record.

“It’s been a special group of guys that have worked really hard, and winning that first game today was breaking the school record for wins,” Phillips said. “They’ll be able to have that kind of legacy, so it’s pretty cool that they were able to do that.”

The Bears graduate seven seniors: Phillips, Peterson, Broc and Trey Caldwell, Trevor Burgess, Jason Webster and Charlie Hisel.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

Coal Ridge, Basalt fall in 3A baseball regionals; Rifle hosts 4A regional Monday after weather delays

The Coal Ridge High School baseball team was leading 3-2 going into the seventh inning of the Titans 3A regional against Kent Denver in Eaton Sunday afternoon, before giving up two runs to the Sun Devils in the bottom half to take the 4-3 loss, ending their season.

Coal Ridge, seeded 17th, scored two in the second inning and one in the fifth, as freshman pitcher Ben Simons held the No. 16 Sun Devils to two runs through six innings before giving up the tying and go-ahead runs. He had 11 strikeouts on the day.

Sophomore Austin Price had 2 RBIs for the Titans, and freshman Jakson Slade was 1-for-1 at the plate with an RBI.

Coal Ridge finishes the season at 16-8. It was the final game in a Titans jersey for seniors Nolan Simpson and Boden Robbins.

In another 3A regional playoff game Sunday involving an area team, No. 21 Basalt fell to No. 12 Resurrection Christian 12-2, also on the road, at Brush.

Meanwhile, Rifle High School’s 4A Region 8 baseball playoff games are rescheduled for Monday in Rifle following a weekend snowstorm that kept the visiting teams from traveling to play as originally scheduled on Saturday.

The Bears (19-4) come in as the No. 2 overall seed, playing No. 31 Evergreen (13-10) at 10 a.m. Monday at Rifle’s Deerfield Park. That will be followed by the No. 15 D’Evelyn (15-8) and No. 18 Northridge (14-9) game at 12:30 p.m., and the two winners will meet at 3 p.m. for the right to advance to the eight-team 4A state tournament later this week.

Rifle concluded the regular season as the runner-up in the 4A Western Slope League to overall No. 1 seed Palisade, which hosted one of the eight regional playoffs on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (23-2) won their opener 10-0 over No. 32 Aurora Central, and hammered No. 17 Falcon 13-3 to advance to the round of eight.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Finding coaches becoming tougher for Garfield County high school sports programs

Glenwood Springs football’s Blake Nieslanik (15) celebrates with a coach after recording an interception in the team’s home win over Battle Mountain on Nov. 5, 2021.
File / Rich Allen

Coal Ridge Athletic Director Ben Kirk was confronted with a tough decision after no one really applied for the job. Head girls golf coach Joseph Bledsoe stepped down in 2021, and any prospective replacement couldn’t dedicate enough time to extra-curricular tutelage.

“I had to call those girls and say you can play in Rifle,” he said.

Like most high school sports programs across the nation right now, Garfield County athletics directors are seeing fewer applicants for open coaching positions.

Kirk said five years ago vacant positions were filled within just a couple of days. Now, it’s as though no one wants them, he said.

Not only is Coal Ridge currently down a girls golf coach, its varsity football program is looking for a defensive coordinator while the school’s weight room is also down a full-time coach.

“Finding qualified people that are already invested in the community is the hardest part,” Kirk said.

Nobody got into coaching U.S. high schools athletics to make money. Love for sport and its life lessons are still there, but pay is in the equation, said Rifle High School Athletics Director Chris Bomba.

The Garfield School District Re-2, complete with 4,700 students, currently pays 10% of base salary for coaches. Jobs posted online offer anywhere from $3,320 to $4,151 per year.

Rifle High School has openings expected for head soccer coaches and an assistant head coach position, Bomba said.

“We have many jobs that have been open for months,” he said.

Newly hired Glenwood Springs High School head football coach Tory Jensen is right now asking for more volunteer coaches. Prior to taking over for former head coach Patrick Engle, the Demons’ 65-man roster was overseen by five coaches — despite having 11 coaches listed on online high school sports hub MaxPreps.

Though only May, Jensen said he has at least 80 students signed up to play Demons’ 2022 fall season. The former Roaring Fork High School coach used to have 12-13 coaches for a roster of 60.

Jensen is trying to bring back that number, he said.

“I don’t like kids standing around. I want everybody moving,” Jensen said. “The more coaches we have, the more I can get guys to do more reps and not be sitting out there, hanging out, watching other guys doing reps.”

Jensen also said convincing people with full-time jobs to coach high school football after work is tough.

“Everybody’s working their tails off right now because there’s so much available work,” he said. “Getting guys who can commit full time is super difficult.”

Ideally, Jensen wants enough coaches to come out by the start of spring camp, slated May 31.

“For the next three weeks, I want guys to realize that football’s a fun game, and it’s something worth committing time to,” Jensen said. “Football’s hard, and it’s not for everyone. But I think for those who buy into it, they become better people for it.”

For Bomba, recruiting and retaining high school coaches is the difference between sports thriving or simply fizzling out.

“Worst case scenario,” Bomba said, “we don’t have the sport.”

CALLING ALL COACHES

• Anyone interested in coaching for Glenwood Springs football can call Tory Jensen at 970-948-8209. For more information on Roaring Fork job postings, visit https://www.rfsd.k12.co.us/en-US#0 or call 970-384-6000.

• Anyone interested in coaching for the Garfield Re-2 district, visit https://www.garfieldre2.net or call Human Resources Dirctor Kayla Swindell at 970-665-7628.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

Basalt’s Katelyn Maley wins girls 800-meter run on second day of state track meet

Katelyn Maley’s trophy shelf is getting quite crowded. The Basalt High School junior added to her collection on Saturday by winning the Class 3A girls 800-meter run at the CHSAA state championship meet at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood.

Sitting in roughly third place after the first lap, Maley took the lead around the midway point of the race and held on for the win. It was close at the finish, however, with Maley coming in at 2 minutes, 13.27 seconds, while Berthoud’s Jaycee Williams was right there with her at 2:13.48. Liberty Common’s Isabel Allori was third in 2:14.45, with Basalt junior Ava Lane coming in fourth in 2:14.82. Coal Ridge’s Mikayla Cheney was eighth in 2:17.42.

For Maley, the state championship joins the two she has in cross country and last spring’s state championship win in the 1,600-meter run, or mile. She took third in the 3,200-meter run on Thursday.

Maley did not get to compete in track as a freshman after that season was canceled because of the pandemic.

She’ll get the chance to defend her state title in the mile on Sunday. The state meet was extended through Sunday after Friday’s action was canceled because of a strong winter storm that hit the state.

Also Saturday, the BHS girls took fourth in the 4×200-meter relay in 1:46.22. Liberty Common took the win in 1:44.78, followed by North Fork (1:45.90) and Moffat County (1:46.05).

The Aspen girls competed in the 4×100-meter relay prelims on Saturday, finishing 16th in 52.83 seconds and did not make finals. That group included Laurel Yule, Natalie Wesner, Araya Thompson and Kenza Carolan.

The Coal Ridge girls won the 800-meter sprint medley final on Saturday in 1:48.19.

acolbert@aspentimes.com